The earliest certificate I have is from 1945 and was issued during World War 2. Paper and sugar during the war were rationed among the US population but businesses were also subject to quotas. Topps was able to circumvent this with an aggressive strategy of buying up struggling businesses during the war, which allowed them to assume the rationed quotas of paper and staple goods assigned to those businesses. It sounds a bit predatory but it is a sound business practice. This allowed them to keep selling gum and candy and to keep printing redemption certificates to help those sales along. Here is the '45 Certificate, or to be precise 1/2 Certificate:
The smaller portion on the right looks like a coupon but it is not. Some Topps Certificates have these "sidebars" and some don't. In this instance its really a PSA that tells how many certificates you can use to obtain $1 worth of Victory Stamps.
I'm not sure if Topps ever resided at 134 Broadway in Brooklyn. They definitely were housed in the Gretsch Building at 60 Broadway in the early to mid 1940's before they moved to Bush Terminal in the late 40's but #134 may have just been where the premiums were mailed from by a third party administrator. (UPDATE: They were indeed located there, having moved offices from 60 Broadway, which housed machinery and provided warehouse space.)
The reverse has some nifty prizes. That coffee maker looks scary!
Here's a Certificate from a little later on (1950):
You can see that Topps Gum is still the featured brand. Bazooka was just starting to devour the market as the 50's dawned. The mail-in address has changed to a PO box.
The back is a little more interesting than last time. Check out those gams!
The introduction of photography on the reverses just shows how highly Topps valued the Certificates and the redemption program. In case you are wondering, these measure about 4 3/4" x 2 3/4".
Some of the certificates were more specific than others. You only needed five of these to get a Chef's Knife, or you could put it toward the regular premiums.
Notice how the address in 1952 is Topps HQ in Bush Terminal now. The back of this particular example is blank by the way.
I'll close out with some Geranium:
It sounds flowery, doesn't it? I'll bet in reality is was just a bunch of overstock Topps or their supplier got real cheap, or they struck an advertising deal to promote this style of dinnerware. It's probably the same stuff they used to give away in movie theaters during the Depression.
You can see from the scan that Bazooka is much more prominently featured at this point. I am not sure when Topps brand fruit and mint gum ceased to be but Bazooka Joe and the gang were in full swing by the time this Certicate was issued in 1955.
The back is boring, it's just a couple of lists:
I'll have more to say on these down the road. They were issued into the early 1980's according to that Interstate Man of Mystery, Jeff Shepherd. With that span of time to cover, there's plenty more to talk about anon.